July 20, 2014

Anti-development group Frack Free Geraldton continues to use discredited research in its efforts to frighten people into thinking shale gas poses a risk to groundwater.

A recent advertisement published in the Geraldton Guardian (July 11), suggests thousands of gas wells will soon be drilled and that these could leak into groundwater.

It cites Anthony Ingraffea, a US academic who is well-known for his anti-gas advocacy and activism, and whose research has drawn significant criticism from US government regulators and other academics.

There is limited shale and tight gas exploration in the Mid West. Perhaps three wells are likely to be drilled this year.

Further investment and activity will depend largely on the results.

This exploration represents a real opportunity for new sources of energy, jobs and investment in the region and deserves a well-informed debate about the risks and the rewards.

Importantly, while activists opposed to any fossil fuels may wish it wasn’t so, there is a broad scientific consensus that natural gas can be responsibly developed and, specifically, that hydraulic fracturing can be safely used.

For example, the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) stated in its comprehensive and peer reviewed report on shale gas, that the risk of a well casing failure in Australia is low because the industry is committed to ensuring wells are constructed and maintained to the highest standard.

The truth is hydraulic fracturing is a safe, reliable and well-understood technology that has already been used successfully in Western Australia with around 750 wells safely “fracked” since the 1950s.

Guardian readers can be confident that WA’s onshore gas industry is strictly regulated, technically advanced and strongly committed to the highest possible environmental and safety standards.

Originally published as a letter to the editor in The Geraldton Guardian, 21 July